This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
No doubt the suggestion to practice improvisation seems like an oxymoron. Yet practice is exactly how professional improv comedians become so skilled at their craft (think, Whose Line Is It Anyway?).
Professional improv-ers rehearse by making up scenes over and over, always with new scenarios and relationships that are completely invented on the spot. Then when it’s show time and the curtain goes up, they’re able to create entertaining scenes from audience suggestions, not because they’ve memorized lines, but because they’ve practiced the principles of improv: being responsive, collaborative, and authentic.
Let’s look a more closely at the principle of collaboration. Improv comedians drill it over and over again, using a two-word mantra: “Yes, and …” It’s a fundamental technique that fosters true teamwork.
Imagine this: You’re on stage and a scene partner says something—probably outrageous and always unexpected (“Why in the world did you buy that bunny?”) By responding with words that imply “yes,” you accept the suggestion. By then adding words that imply “and,” you build on it and advance the scene (“Because his face reminds me of Aunt Ellen and I love her!”).
Don’t worry, you don’t have to get on stage—or talk about bunnies—to be a trusted advisor. You do have to rehearse principles (not lines) just like the comedy pros.
I know my client relationships can always benefit from a little, “Yes, and …” and I bet yours could, too.
This week, observe yourself as you interact with others. How many times do your replies embody the spirit of “Yes, and …” and how many times is your contribution is more of a “Yes, but …”? Make a concerted effort to bring more “Yes, and …” to your conversations. What differences do you notice—in yourself and in your results?